Peatling leads Eastern to win over Lumberjacks
With its offense and defense clicking late in the first half and early in the second, the Eastern Washington University men’s basketball team downed Northern Arizona 80-70 on Saturday (Feb. 22) in a Big Sky Conference game at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Eastern out-scored the Lumberjacks 25-3 during a decisive run spanning halftime. The Eagles held NAU without a field goal during that 7:28 stretch and opened a 19-point lead early in the second half. Eastern dominated the glass, holding a 42-30 rebounding advantage and out-scoring NAU 42-28 inside the paint.
“We have a team that plays really smart and we have some really good players out there,” said Eastern head coach Shantay Legans. “Not all the guys are hitting on all cylinders right now, but they are all competing and playing tough. When you get contributions from everybody in the game, that makes it easy to coach a team like this. Our assistant coaches do an amazing job of getting us prepared, and we are ready for about anything.”
Senior Mason Peatling continued his tear during Big Sky play with 27 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. He now has had 12 double-doubles on the season with nine in his last 11 games. Sophomore Kim Aiken Jr. finished the afternoon with 12 points and eight boards, and junior Jacob Davison scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
Junior Jack Perry hit a trio of 3-pointers and was the fourth Eagle in double figures with 13. Redshirt freshman Casson Rouse came off the bench to chip in seven points and equaled his career high with five assists.
“These types of games get us prepared and battle-tested,” said Legans. “Northern Arizona is a really good team, so you have to make sure you come with your ‘A’ game. They got their 3-pointers, but they didn’t win. There were a couple of stretches where our defense came up big.”
Eastern extended its home winning streak versus NAU to nine with the victory, having not lost to the Lumberjacks at Reese Court in more than 10 years since Jan. 15, 2010. The Eagles have now won 10 of their last 12, and the Lumberjacks were nearly as hot entering Saturday’s contest, winning eight of its last 11.
With four games left in the league season before the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Eastern sits at 19-8 overall and 12-4 in the league. It’s already the school’s fifth-highest win total in 37 seasons as a member of Division I, and the fifth-most league wins in 33 seasons in the Big Sky
Now well into the second half of the league season, seeding for the Big Sky Conference Tournament March 11-14 in Boise, Idaho, becomes an important consideration. The top five teams receive a bye to the quarterfinal round on Thursday, March 12, while the other six play on Wednesday, March 11, and must win four games to win the title and the automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Northern Arizona led for much of the first half until EWU used a 6-0 run to knot the score at 21 with 9:24 to play. The Lumberjacks led by three at 34-31 with 2:36 left, but would go 0-of-4 the rest of the half and trail 40-34 at intermission.
Aiken, who scored 12 points in the first half, scored seven of EWU’s points in a half-ending 9-0 run. Peatling added 10 points in a half in which EWU was out-shot 45 percent to 42 percent, but had advantages in turnovers forced at 5-2 and rebounding at 20-14.
Northern Arizona missed its first six shots in the second half, giving it a stretch of 7:28 without a field goal and 10-straight misses. Eastern took advantage, taking a 56-37 lead with a collective 25-3 run spanning halftime. Back-to-back dunks by Davison and Peatling put the Eagles up 19 with 13:37 to play.
The Lumberjacks did battle back to cut the lead to six at the 7:20 mark, but EWU responded with a 7-2 run. Peatling scored five of the points, including a 3-pointer with 5:55 left that put EWU up by 11. A triple by Perry gave EWU a 12-point cushion at the 4:23 mark.
The closest NAU came the rest of the way was seven, and EWU closed out the game by making six free throws in the last 33 seconds to close out the victory.